In this classic western, 10 schoolboys agree to work a cattle drive because all the men have run off to the gold fields, leaving Will Anderson (John Wayne) with a herd of cattle to drive to market and no hands to help him. Along the trail, the boys learn the meaning of work, how to care for themselves and each other, and just a little bit about women through the poetic advice of Mr. Nightlinger (Roscoe Lee Brown), the trail cook, surgeon and philosopher. They also come up against a big bully, Longhair, played so convincingly by Bruce Dern that it changed the course of his film career. When Longhair's gang of cattle rustlers tries to steal the herd, the boys must fight back. After the brief but violent scene concludes, the boys bury the dead and face the difficult decision of whether to abandon the herd and go home to their mothers, or press on across dangerous territory and bring the cattle to market.